Texas woman travels for abortion after learning baby wouldn’t survive

Published: Sep. 8, 2022 at 6:05 AM EDT
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CLEBURNE, Texas (CNN) - With abortion restrictions in place in Texas, a couple trying to start a family faced a hard choice when they learned their unborn baby would likely die shortly after birth, due to a rare chromosomal abnormality.

Kailee DeSpain, a third-grade teacher, married her husband, Cade DeSpain, right out of college. She said they wanted kids “right away,” and late last year, the couple was thrilled to learn Kailee was pregnant.

But four months later, at a doctor’s appointment, they received devastating news.

“He said, ‘This is what a normal heart looks like, but this is what your baby’s heart looks like.’ He was missing heart chambers,” Kailee DeSpain said.

Her medical records show more: the fetus had triploidy, a rare abnormality that results in an extra set of chromosomes, a severe brain defect and too-small lungs.

Kailee DeSpain’s doctor was clear about what this meant for the unborn baby.

“When he’s born, he’s going to suffocate to death. He may live for a few minutes. He may live for an hour, but he is going to die,” she said.

Her doctor said they could not perform an abortion, noting in her records that termination is not legal in the state of Texas.

“I remember being so angry and shocked in that moment that I’m being told that my child is not going to survive and that I have to carry him to term no matter what,” Kailee DeSpain said.

What’s more, carrying the baby to term could have put her own life in danger. She was at high risk for several potentially deadly pregnancy complications, such as blood clots, preeclampsia and cancer, because of an abnormal placenta.

Texas law allows for abortion if the mother “has a life-threatening physical condition” that places her “at risk of death” or substantial impairment. But lawmakers haven’t spelled out exactly what that means.

The DeSpains were forced to make a choice: Kailee could risk her life and give birth to a baby who would quickly die or go out of state to have an abortion.

“How could you be so cruel as to pass a law that you know will hurt women and that you know will cause babies to be born in pain? He was going to die a painful death. So, how is that humane? How is that saving anybody?” Kailee DeSpain said.

Ultimately, she and her husband decided to travel to New Mexico for an abortion. Since Texas law prohibits insurance companies from paying for the procedure in most cases, Cade DeSpain said he had to convince a relative to give them thousands of dollars.

“My job as a husband is to protect and love my wife. If I’m not fighting to keep her here, then I failed,” he said.

Now, still mourning the loss of her baby, Kailee DeSpain is facing yet another loss. She and her husband were both born and raised in Texas. But they want to try to have another baby, and there’s a high likelihood something will go wrong again.

“The last time that I saw my OB, she said, ‘Do not get pregnant in Texas right now.’ She said, ‘This is not safe,’” Kailee DeSpain said. “I’ve never felt more betrayed by a place I was once so proud to be from.”

The DeSpains once again have a tough decision to make: abide by the doctor’s advice and leave Texas, their families and their jobs or stay in Texas and risk Kailee’s life once again.